English,  Gânduri

Unlearning to learn

Society is changing.
It was always changing. I guess each generation had its wows, its disruptions. The past seems cute and relatively quiet, watched from today.
However, GenX (or let’s call them the current adults) could mention in their time some quite amazing steps were taken, such as the PCs (believe it or not, they are not so “old school”, this is quite a recent product), the Internet and even the emergence of mobile telephony (do you remember the pagers?). Even CDs or digital photography may be mentioned, and probably so many, many more….

Our grandparents, well, they did not have all that. However, they started the television. Not a small thing, is it? Not to forget that, somehow, they went to the Moon. So it seems…

Our great-grandparents were not at all so dynamic, right? However, I guess sometime in their ages, they invented cars. And planes, which, you know, allow people to fly. All over the world, today.

I don’t think we should overlook these achievements. Still, in terms of speed things change, I would dare to appreciate the pace is faster nowadays. The info, the essence of inovation and change, spreads incredibly fast.
In this context, some things tend to be inertial. For some, this could be a good thing, for others, not.

Large social systems are  relatively hard to change. Health, army, religions, education, are such systems that require lots of efforts in order to jump to next stages. I would like to dig just a litlle bit deeper in the tormented soil of Education.

As this is not a large academic paper on Education, by far, it will just depict a few ideas, night thoughts. Actually, this may be one of the specs of today: don’t go for profound, long in depth articles and studies as….not too many have the time and interest to go through all the material (unless you are Kahneman or Branson or Murakami or any iconic name people respect and value as great peaks of human thinking or expertise, but that’s for the champs). Concise ideas, easy to read statements have higher chances to penetrate and get viral. Not ideas without a foundation, without a robust base, but masterly summarized.

= = = = =

Formal education…
We send our children to schools. We ask them to learn, to get good grades, to pass exams and eventually prepare for great jobs & perspectives of tomorrow. The systems drag all these young generations in their modelling machine. We, as parents, play our accomplice role and get into the script: go to school, adapt by all means to the fixed timetable, learn whatever you are taught in order to get good grades and qualify among the best. Sit still in your desk, don’t interupt, don’t talk to others during classes (basically, don’t talk for about 5 hours a day! and don’t move…)

Are we still in this movie? Is this obedience what we expect from future generations. Working in silos, learning by heart, getting deep into understanding some sciences that are kind of irrelevant for what the kids will do. I guess this is not a pleasant scenario we face.

Just a few mismatches, in my opinon, between the current educational system and the world we live in:
– same tables for all in an environement led by customization, in so many life contexts. With just few, sporadic exceptions, young kids are taught basically the same matters, regardless what capabilities, aptitudes and desires they have. It is ok to have a basis of general knowledge, but is this unique? Could this be addaptive to everyone’s profile, or at least to some clusters, typologies of children? We no longer buy a car as long as it is black! All due respect for Henry Ford, he was a true pioneer of his time, a visionary. However, we are not living in his time and we should not prepare our kids as expecting them to work in Ford’s factories from the beginning of the 20th century.
– focus on individualism, personal achievement, in a world driving towards collaboration, co-creating and teamwork. It seems needless to emphasize the role of teams in today’s world (actually, this worked for all ages in the past, just consider relations in armies of all times to have a clear perspective)
– one of the most difficult paradigms to change, quite challenging not only for teachers but for parents as well, is the role of memory in society today. To what extent do we, as humans, need to develop our memory? In a world where information is in enormous volumes and access to it tends to be more and more facile and fast, do our odies still require to have strong performance on this function? I know it is difficult to deal with these thoughts, but what if we really are to diminsh the importance of personal memory in our everyday lives, on the expense of technical aid we have at hand?
– are current matters still relevant for the world we live in? Or for the world we will (probably) have in 20 years? We are all used to learning grammar, literature, biology, geography, chemistry, etc. What if all these are radically reviewed? What if grammar is studied for only a few weeks, just to have a basic understanding of key ideas and principles? What if geography is redesigned, from learning by heart lots of names and often irrelevat details to a more experiential learning, what if literature is taught just briefly and is more about discussing life topics than going through all history of authors? What if math is less about theories, demonstrations and deep dives into granular details, while putting a focus more on its practicalities?
– last, but not least, a “classical” one: maths and hard sciences versus arts and “soul” matters (dancing, singing, painting, etc). Why having a clear preference for the hard sciences? Why not drive young generations towards any area each individual would like to pursue ? I am not saying this tendency wasn’t effective in the past. May be it created a better premise for good jobs and higher income. I am only challenging its usefulness in the (near) future…

I know none of the above is new, I did not manage to come up with any great personalized perspective. However, I look around me and find more and more examples of vocal guys raising the flag to start a change. In so many places around the world, in so many forms and levels of intensity.
I am perfectly aware the list could be completed with lots of other bullets. But I want to keep it short. I am also aware that there are specialists or “specialists” who could drag me into a lot of rationales why the systems are as they are. I guess I could follow the “traditional” approach and get into the topic, dig a lot, talk to lots of experts and inside professionals, the way academic papers are built. But that’s exactly what I don’t want to do. For the sake of time and for the sake of my objectivity. I want to capture my view from above, from my mountain peak. I don’t want to get into it as I presume I could be framed by the current logic of the system. As the system is a really old one, I’m absolutely sure it is build on a strong foundation and I may get impressed by its architecture.  Therefore, I prefer to stay out and highlight the fact that, despite the potential incredible way the current formal educational system is mastered, it is actually a boat heading towards rocks, towards its ultimate sinking. I watch its greatness, listen to explanations and arguments of its well trained captain and personnel, understanding it will pretty soon be a faboulos wreck.

I guess in 50-100 years, our grand children will contemplatively smile when hearing how we grew up in the schools we have today. Provided anyone will care…

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